Opening Restaurants: Five Restaurant Inspection Concerns

by Jul 12, 2021

Home >> Reopening Restaurants

A Difficult Year of Shutdowns, Loss, and Worry

Many restaurants have closed their doors during the pandemic. Over 110,000 restaurants closed in 2020. There are 3.1 million less workers than expected within the restaurant industry today. At minimum, the industry has been impacted by the pandemic. Restaurant inspections may be the last worry on owners’ minds.

But within the last few months, property and restaurant owners have taken a step towards recovery. The industry has added 2.8 million jobs between April 2020 – 2021. As the National Restaurant Association suggests, “the road to a full recovery remains long.” 

It’s important to continue strides toward recovery and optimism. It’s also important to support owners while restaurants continue to open and add jobs. If you are thinking about buying a new restaurant property, then we can help inspect the most important details of the space.

MBI Inspections: Five Concerns for Restaurants Inspections

If you’re thinking about buying a restaurant property, then MBI Inspections can help! We’ll inspect the property and strive to inform you of the condition of each component. Learn more about our inspection services here.

With our inspections, we try to detect hidden costs that are important to be aware of. However, some systems may require a specialist prior to start-up if they haven’t been in use for months. Regardless, we provide guidance based on each specific property’s condition. Many restaurant components may be affected by prolonged shutdowns. 

For now, we outlined five major focuses with reopening restaurants. We discuss the included items, their expected lifespan, and what we inspect for and why.

  1. Gas lines and copper piping
  2. Air-conditioning systems
  3. Fire-safety
  4. Plumbing
  5. Roof integrity


 1. Gas Lines and Copper Piping

A restaurant’s exterior gas meter

Looking to purchase a restaurant that’s been vacant for some time? If so, it could have damaged or missing gas lines. These vital parts of the line include:

  • Copper pipes
  • Gas meter
  • Drainpipes

We inspect gas lines in all of our assessments. First, we check the functions by turning it on and off. We access these switches at the grill or fryer fixture, or at the main shut-off lever connected to the fire-safety system. 

We have experience managing some restaurants in downtown Minneapolis, in addition to inspections. From our experience, it’s important to check all exposed copper pipes after a lengthy vacancy. Pipes can twist or leak due for many reasons, and in some cases, pipes may be absent due to their valuable copper lining. If so, the gas lines will be a major problem for your restaurant. Copper pipes vary in life depending on type and thickness, however pipes could last anywhere from 20-40 years.

In addition to an assessment, we recommend you contact a commercial gas/mechanical contractor for more information.

2. Air-conditioning Systems

15 TON Heating/Cooling Rooftop Units (RTUs) on a restaurant

Rooftop heating/cooling units (RTU)

The restaurant’s air-conditioning system is important to keep customers and workers cool and happy. An air-conditioning system potentially includes:

  • Rooftop Unit (pictured above)
  • Air condenser
  • Air compressor

A cooling component, such as a chiller or condenser, lasts 16-23 years. However, the lifespan of these components increase with regular maintenance and upkeep. For example, you need to be attentive to any potential hail damage or rust buildup.

We try to help you stretch the lives of these very expensive pieces of equipment. On average, we estimate replacement condensers to be roughly $2,500 per ton. Since the unit above is 15 tons, we’d estimate a replacement to cost about $37,500!

3. Fire-safety

An outdated Ansul fire protection system.

If a restaurant stays vacant for a long period, the fire-safety inspections may lapse. Some notable restaurant fire-safety items include: 

  • elevator certification (for multi-level restaurants)
  • kitchen Ansul systems
  • hood cleaning
  • fire extinguisher inspections
  • fire alarm panels and exit signage maintenance  

Restaurants in the U.S. are required to have a kitchen fire protection system. The most common system is Ansul, made by Tyco. Only a qualified service technician can perform the necessary bi-annual inspection.

Improper cleanliness can lead to dangerous working conditions. For example, grease buildup looks unpleasant and may cause injuries to slip and fall. You are required by law to have kitchen hoods and to keep them cleaned.

In addition to checking the fire protection system, you should inspect the fire extinguishers monthly.  Make sure to record each time you check it. It’s important to start off on the right foot!

Learn more about the fire-safety codes you have to meet here on the National Fire Protection Association’s standards.

4. Plumbing

A leaky sink drain is solved quickly with a bucket.

Your potential new restaurant property may have minor plumbing issues if the property has been vacant. Some minor and notable plumbing fixtures include:

  • Cast iron drains (underground)
  • Toilets & urinals
  • Sinks
  • Dishwashers

It is common for rubber parts to dry out, shrink, or crack when not used for long periods of time. These are simple fixes, but they can lead to expensive water bills due to leaky pipes. Fist, the insides of pipes may have sediment buildup which clogs or weakens water pressure. Lastly, ground drains can have grease or rust buildup. Ultimately, negligence or even an improper water softener can cause buildup.

We strive to inspect any immediate and long-term plumbing signs of wear and neglect.

5. Roof maintenance

A new (2020) TPO roof membrane.

New TPO Roof Membrane

Many owners neglect the roof. As a result, roof drains and gutters can clog and cause water to build up. The notable roof items include:

  • Roof drains
  • Roofing membrane
  • Flashing
  • Caulking

Excess water causes mold, cracks, and rust. In addition to the roof, these problems can expand to other areas of your property. For example, one of our inspected properties had a roof drain that caused the sidewalk and driveway to crack and erode. If you address these problems early, you can extend the life of your roof and other building areas.

Our inspections look for signs of roof damage and wear. If we find regular signs of neglect, we advise you to address these concerns sooner rather than later. Above all, we inform you of all notable roofing conditions.


Reach Out to MBI Inspections

If you need a restaurant inspection for your property, please contact us! 

At MBI Inspections, we have inspected many restaurants. Additionally, we have inspected retail/strip malls, clinics, assisted living facilities, and more. We’ve conducted commercial inspection assessments for 12 years and counting, all across the country, with over 400 properties inspected. Learn more about the team at MBI Inspections.